It’s no secret that pretty much the entire world is over-tired, undernourished, bombarded by stressful technology, media, internet, work requests 24/7… or even if not, anxiety is actually nothing new, we just live in a world which makes it more of an epidemic than ever because we’re so disconnected from the natural way of living our lives.
I’ve previously taken anti-anxiety medication, but I’m happy to say today I’m able to manage it entirely pharmaceutical free! Here are my top 6 tips for managing anxiety entirely au naturel! And I know some people get sick of always hearing meditate, meditate, meditate… so as big a meditation advocate as I am (I regard it as essential to my wellbeing and happiness!) this will not appear on my list of top tips… you’re welcome 😉
1. Your new (natural!) make-your-own-medicine
No need to pop pills – chamomile tea (available at any good supermarket or corner shop!) and 3-4 drops of Valerian tincture (available via this link at Planet Organic, and most good health stores) and you’re good to go! This works at least as well as if not better the drugs I was once prescribed (and took!) for anxiety… without any nasty side effects. It’s a life saver. I keep the tincture on my desk. You can add it to water or any herbal tea, but chamomile has calming properties and I find they work best together.
2. Movement – the right kind
Notice I didn’t say ‘exercise’ or ‘train hard’. If you’re stressed and anxious, hardcore workouts release quite a bit of cortisol (normally this is an okay dose and your body deals and it’s actually beneficial, but if you’re already frazzled it can be cortisol OD! Not good!) So I recommend mindful movement – 30 minutes of outdoor walking near as much greenery as possible per day (no excuses Londoners – Hyde Park, Holland Park, Victoria Park, Clapham Common, Hampstead heath, or even a leafy neighbourhood are great…!), things like yoga, pilates, cycling and swimming can all be nice, mindful, meditative and importantly they get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing without too much stress on the body.
3. Vitamin meeeeeee
Make sure you’re eating a diet rich in vegetables (all the colours of the rainbow, and don’t forget the leafy greens!) but if in doubt you may want to speak to a doctor or nutritionist and consider supplementing. Some mood-boosting (and general health boosting!) supplements I researched extensively and incorporate now include vitamins C, E, B12, Co-Q10, ashwagandha, ginseng, and olive leaf extract. I came across nature’s amazing pharmacy via the amazing book Cured by Nature by Tara Mackey (but always remember professional advice is key when supplementing! Don’t take my word for it. your body could be different, and always double check if you’re pregnant or on any medication with your GP if there are any issues with you supplementing). Most pharmacies and health food stores will stock all the ones I’ve listed above. Probiotics are also great (the gut brain strongly affects mood!) and you can get these good live cultures from kombucha, kimchi, or supplements.
4. Caffeine and alcohol (sorry folks!)
Cutting these out is good for your health anyway, but if you’re anxious and stressed, it’s super important. They’re dehydrating, they’ll make anxiety and mood issues worse (caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant) and so in difficult times, these are best avoided. They also disrupt your gut microbiome and so its no wonder they’re detrimental for mood, anxiety and stress! Try swapping for herbal teas – the calming ones are a much healthier swap for the over-anxious (peppermint, chamomile etc. and you can find all kinds of de-stress blends to help!) and if you’re missing alcohol, pop some kombucha (which feeds your microbiome the good gut bacteria and boosts your mood in the process!) in a wine glass – voila! No-one will know it’s not champagne!
5. Turmeric… gold dust!
Apparently studies show this can be as effective as some anti-depressants for mood (source: Cured by Nature). Even if not, it’s been used since ancient times for food-medicine for all sorts of things, and is a key spice in Ayurveda (an ancient Indian holistic health system). I drink it in the Yogi Tea Turmeric Chai herbal tea blend and add it to soups and salads. You can also mix it into juices, smoothies, sprinkle it on veggies or whatever meal you have, season meat, fish or veggie alternatives with it… and you can also buy it in capsule form online or from health food stores. It’s anti-inflammatory, and whether or not it works like magic, it’s placebo, or whatever… it’s great for your health, it’s the colour of sunshine and some studies do support its benefits so I’m totally in! No bad can come of incorporating this sun-dust into your diet.
6. Clary sage – so underrated! (lavender’s so last season…)
Everyone’s favourite essential oil for relaxation is lavender, and yes, it works… but if you’re anything like me, it reminds you of sleep. If you’re in the office and anxious in the middle of the day, you might like to sniff something else. I find clary sage oil to be the best calm remedy. Sniff straight from the bottle, or pop a few drops on a tissue and breathe in as needed. It’s calming, but less sleep-inducing than lavender. I’d also recommend uplifting scents like orange and lemon for a little energy boost!
I hope some of these help a little bit, or give you something to think about. There are so many more (I promised I wouldn’t say meditation or deep breathing, but those are great, but also reading, creativity, trying new things, journaling, finding inspiring podcasts and blogs, dancing… there are a million options we have to better manage our stress and anxiety!) Let me know some of your favourites if they’re not listed here 🙂 ❤
I make no secret of my love for boxing (yep, I really enjoy watching the sport as well as going to classes at KOBOX [check them out in City, Chelsea and Marylebone]) and, when I can, getting in PT to focus on padwork and technique) so this post won’t catch anyone by surprise…
I always advocate people finding ways to MOVE and TRAIN that they love and that feel intuitive and fun, rather than ‘exercise’ to burn calories which you have to force yourself to do and take less joy in. The mental angle of being excited about learning a new skill is key for me, and key for every client I’ve worked with or friend I’ve encouraged when we’ve worked on lifestyle changes for better health (both physical and mental!)
It’s also better for body image and your relationship with training and nutrition if you can move for joy and to celebrate what your body can do (because it honestly is kickass!) rather than as a punishment for what you ate.
Maybe it’s not boxing for you that ticks this box, by the way. Maybe its cycling, ballet, hiphop, triathlons, karate, hill sprints, hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, competitive swimming… the list is endless. And that’s okay too. But in really zoning in on boxing as both a way to keep my mental health in check, my body healthy, my stress levels down a little, and most importantly as a hobby that makes me happy and teaches me new skills at the same time, I’ve found loads of unexpected benefits to boxing that I thought I’d share incase anyone is on the fence about trying it.
PS. If you are on the fence about trying it and are nervous to go to a traditional boxing gym, DEFINITELY check out KOBOX – you can find out all you need to know on their website, and I’ve also posted at length (nothing sponsored, all me!) about why Kobox is incredible here, how 1 year of Kobox changed my body and brain here, plus I interviewed Kris Pace, their brand director when we spoke but now Operations director here for my Inspire Interview series.
Anyway, without further ado, here are 8 benefits of boxing that you probably aren’t expecting when you start!
More Zen – yep, despite it looking like an aggressive gig (and obviously it is, so it has MAJOR stress busting benefits!), the cool down and stretch times after a boxing session are some of the most relaxed and blissed out sessions I’ve EVER had (it’s like a yoga savasna x100000000000, and beats saunas and Jacuzzis any time for the relax factor!) The 100% mental focus it takes to push yourself hard and try to wrap your head around the physical challenge but also the technique side of things means you concentrate super hard, sweat a tonne, release a f**k load of stress and you can really meditate, stretch and unwind like you’ve never experienced when it’s all over.
Grit / resilience boost – I’ve noticed my stamina and grit through painful bits of training has increased sooooo much through boxing classes and PT. I used to be more prone to working at 60-70% effort and stopping with some fuel left in the tank. Not anymore! The Kobox instructors particularly are all super motivating, really know their sh*t, and will push you out of your comfort zone but also know how to tailor it to the individual so they can always gauge how hard to push you and when to let you recover.
Developing this grit and resilience helps you day today as it also stays with you outside the gym too.
Improved mindfulness, focus, and being present – as above really, 1 & 2 combined… having to challenge your cardiovascular system, your concentration on technique, controlling your mental state so you don’t give up and lie down or grab a donut – over time it’s amazing how these really build to a better ability to be present. Focused. Mindful. Boosted concentration. Boxing in class or a cheeky PT sesh is one of the rare times I can genuinely 100% block out and switch off from the outside world and zone in on the task at hand – hitting bags or pads or doing drills, whatever it may be! You definitely take this out of class or out of the ring too and find you have a fresher, uplifted perspective.
Better body awareness (also = better sex, fyi…!) – [this is something you can get from dance training too] – focusing in on technique and having to be aware of the alignment and placement of all parts of your body to execute movement better translates into gradually improving your awareness of your body at all times, both inside and outside the gym. This has knock on effects for all other workouts, for how you walk and move generally – the more aware you are of what feels right and wrong and how your body is aligned means you get more out of every session. It also has interesting benefits outside of the gym too… 😉
You’re also less likely to get injured if you move and train with awareness and it helps you cultivate an injury prevention mindset and makes you want to take care of your body so you can continue doing the good stuff rather than hammering it and risking longer term injury.
You learn a lot about yourself – the style of training is quite demanding but you also only get out what you put in. How you adapt, how much you push yourself and how you respond to new challenges really reveals to you what your strengths and weaknesses are. You will also be surprised how much harder you can work than you thought. Boxing’s combination of learning a skill, working you crazy hard, demanding focus and dedication to getting better (plus the huge number of inspiring trainers and sportspeople you can learn from!) means you always leave a session knowing a little bit more about it and you than you did before. It also teaches you perseverance at a much higher level than any other form of workout I’ve tried.
Boxing psychology & a fighter mentality (even if you’re not sparring yourself!) – you feel much more revved up to tackle things in day to day life because of the physical and mental benefits of training. I also find it fascinating to read about boxers’ mindsets and strategies and the psychological tactics they use, so even if you’re not in the ring or doing white collar fights yourself, you can still apply what is interesting and exciting about the sport to your life by taking on board those lessons. Boxing psychology is insaaaaane. Talk about mental toughness!
It’s the best for improving ‘overall athleticism’ – a few years ago, a bunch of researches and ESPN found that boxing is the sport that takes the most athleticism. Boxing combines so many factors and demands a lot of anyone taking part, beginner through to pro – it’s a sport that requires mega endurance, building strength, learning to develop power and some speed and agility to boot. A good trainer will make sure you understand how each drill or seemingly weird or random exercise is beneficial for your boxing – some work to improve footwork, or the placement of the hips or feet to sharpen up your technique, and some things might just be for your endurance.
Either way, boxing is one of the most incredible all-round workouts you can do!
It’s empowering – from both a self-confidence point of view, from a seeing yourself progress point of view, from the feeling you get when you finally manage to nail something you’ve struggled with for ages… it’s bloody empowering! That’s without even visualizing people you hate on your bag 😉 Also, as I allude to in this post here, I’m passionate about women doing sports like boxing and feeling stronger and able to hold their own due to some past family experiences and witnessing guys who think it’s ok to hit girls outside of sport. Spoiler: it’s not.
What are your fave ways to train? Have you tried boxing yet? Let me know what you think. And hopefully see you at Kobox!
Spirituality is slowly seeping more and more into the instagram wellbeing bubble – I’ve recently heard spiritual wellness coaches like Jody Shield speak at events alongside fitness and nutrition professionals, showing people that spirituality can combine with modern life and isn’t just for hippies in a field dancing naked wearing hemp and sandals.
Former ‘fitness only’ influencers have moved across into yoga, astrology and crystals (quite a few instagrammers, for example) and then there are the public figures like Mel Wells who has moved from food coaching into more of a ‘spiritual wellness’ space having launched her new membership product, The Goddess Collective… Figures like Jasmine Hemsley combine nutrition and Ayurveda (yoga’s sister science)…
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a new wellness craze! But none of these things and ideas are particularly new, it just seems they’re reaching a new market and being taken on by a new ‘generation’ almost…
Wellness and lifestyle bloggers are expanding the areas of content they cover from fitness, fashion, nutrition and health into the spiritual. And I guess that can be quite polarizing for some people, who maybe don’t agree with their ideas, or odd for others who haven’t encountered these ideas yet.
The Big Questions
Religion and myth have been a part of humanity for as long as we’ve been conscious – humans naturally crave explanations for things they don’t understand and the mysteries of the universe.
I’ve been asked recently in a Q&A I did on instagram if I’m religious, and if I think religion and spirituality can help mental health. I didn’t answer it on IG as it needed a fuller post to be honest, it’s a huge topic! So here goes!
My two cents…
Let’s just get it clear that all of these things are deeply personal and we all have to respect that people won’t always agree…!
I am an atheist. I’ve never believed in a creator god, and still don’t. I was made to go to Christian Sunday school as a kid for a bit, but my parents aren’t really Christians either (my grandmother and former stepmum are) but I never believed in it.
I grew up near Glastonbury and so as a teen discovered paganism and Wicca and dabbled for a while for fun, but never seriously believed in it. Yes, I did a couple of Witchy Rituals following Fiona Horne’s books. It’s funny looking back on it now 🙂 However I did learn loads about the pagan tradition, gods and goddesses in all kinds of different traditions, crystals and new age philosophy, and all that jazz. I first started learning to meditate as a teen but stopped and didn’t come back to it til later in life.
I’ve also, with my other half, rejected a lot of the Glastonbury naval gazing and hippyisms as we’ve witnessed first hand how the lack of responsibility and drug culture can mess up peoples’ lives (particularly kids).
At university through literary criticism I discovered philosophy and found myself to be an existentialist. I don’t believe life has inherent meaning, I believe we create it, and have to work to create it and find meaning in things.
I went to Cambodia and Thailand in one of my uni summers and was OBSESSED with exploring the gorgeous temples of Angkor Wat.
I’ve always been interested in world religions, especially Hinduism and Buddhism (and my mum was interest in Buddhism too so I read loads on it as a teenager). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures and indigenous peoples, and love to hear about myths in, for example, Aztec and Mayan traditions, and Japanese and Chinese beliefs.
I got diagnosed with depression in my 20s although I’ve had it my whole life. I remain an atheist and existentialist, but after years of work combining fitness, nutrition, medication and meditation to manage the condition, I started looking wider.
I’m also fascinated by the commonalities between religions, and the ways in which conquering religions like Christianity used existing Pagan holidays to persuade people to adopt their practices more easily.
So where are you now? Do you believe in god or a creator? How does it work with your rational logical side? Does it help your mental wellbeing?
I’m still an atheist.
I’m still an existentialist.
I’m also a Scorpio with Capricorn rising…!
Do I rationally and logically believe in astrology? No. Do I match everything my chart says about being a Scorpio with Capricorn rising? Hell yes! Do I enjoy it intuitively? Yes. Is that a bit of a paradox? Probably, yeah! Whatever!
In Ayurveda, I’m very strongly the pitta dosha. Do I believe this is biologically, scientifically a thing? No… but I can still relate to it, enjoy it, use it to derive meaning and adopt self-care practices…
Not everything, for me, now, has to make clinical sense. At one point I’d have rejected all this. But I think it’s totally fine to do your own personal thing.
If I had to be labeled, I’d be nearer a Buddhist as they don’t believe in an active being, or creator.
I think you can create meaning and fun however you want. I enjoy hearing about different cultures’ believes, I enjoy astrology, I may not rationally believe in tarot but why the fuck not if you like that kinda thing?
Keats was a poet who wrote about ‘negative capability’ – the ability to hold two conflicting thoughts and beliefs at the same time, so why not do that?!
I think generally religion is two things – a source of comfort and guidance to people (nothing wrong with that!) and an attempt to explain things that science has not yet been able to. If you want to enjoy the fictions to bring meaning to life – why not?!!
Given that I don’t believe in a god, I don’t exactly have a being I feel comforted by, or ask for guidance from. But my foraging into meditation and Buddhism has definitely helped me get a grip on my brain and managing my thoughts, emotions and moods.
What are your thoughts?
Let me know what you think about how spirituality is really kicking off in the wellness field, and share your beliefs and practices if you feel comfortable!
Sorry it’s been a little while since the last Inspire Interview… today’s is completely different to the careers we’ve spoken about before, which is why I love doing this series so much… there are so many amazing people doing cool jobs in all kinds of different industries, and talking to everyone about it is great just for me to be nosey, let alone share with you!
I know law is something I get asked about a lot – how do I fit fitness around life as a trainee, for example, so I thought I’d go right to the source and give you a fully qualified lawyer on how she balances all things work, life, workouts and play!
Today’s interview is with the kick ass Rebecca King, who I actually met through our mutual obsession with KOBOX. She very kindly answered some questions on life as a lawyer in one of the biggest US firms in London, and busts some myths about lawyer life, not least that you have to do law at uni – she did THE COOLEST undergrad degree ever… so without further ado –
B: Can you tell us a little bit about the area of law you work in…
R: I work in Debt Capital Markets on bond issuances (for corporates, banks and sometimes sovereigns).
B: What made you become a lawyer? How did you get there – did you do undergrad law or convert later?
R: To be honest, I just thought I’d be quite good at it! I didn’t study it as an undergrad, as I wasn’t 100% decided and knew I had the option of converting later. I studied a subject I loved but doesn’t have much in the way of traditional job applications outside academia – Archaeology and Anthropology. I focused on Biological Anthropology, the study of how humans evolved – I even met Jane Goodall once when she gave us a primatology lecture. I also took papers in Ancient Egyptian Religion, which I’ve always been fascinated by, although I chose not to make Egyptology my main focus because I’ve never been great at languages. If you think French is hard – try hieroglyphics! (I did. I was crap.)
I combined that with some legal work experience and vacation schemes, and I was offered a training contract with my current firm just before I graduated from Cambridge – they then sponsored me through law school.
B: Can you describe a (working) day in the life of RK?
R: As you know, hours and work can be so varied! Officially our working hours are 9.30 till 6 and recently my department has been relatively quiet so that’s been about when I get in and out. I’m about to head to lunch, and today so far I’ve sorted out some postclosing matters for a deal that closed last week, had a kick-off call for a pro-bono matter, reviewed and updated our internal memo on listing procedures for the London Stock Exchange and attended our department quarterly meeting. A pretty average morning!
B: What advice would you give someone looking to become a lawyer? Any advice you were given en route that was helpful?
R: I’d say that the subject of your undergraduate degree doesn’t really matter but your grades and outside interests really do. If you’re a non-law undergrad like I was, you’ll need to prove you’re serious about law even though you actively chose not to study it for your degree, which can be tricky! Definitely get involved with your university law society early on and attend recruitment fairs and law firm presentations, and apply for vacation schemes or open days as soon as you’re eligible – once you’ve attended one, it’s easier to tick that “genuinely interested” box and be accepted for more.
Also – and I think this is true of any industry, not just law – it’s infinitely better to just submit five job applications that you’ve really thought about and tailored to that particular firm than fire off fifty identical cover letters and CVs. Believe me, these firms receive thousands and thousands of identikit applications and anything they think you’ve copied and pasted will be promptly set aside.
B: What are the biggest misconceptions about being a lawyer that you think are out there? Any myths you want to bust (or confirm!)
R: That all lawyers go to court! My sister is at a different firm that specialises in arbitration, and goes all the time. I’ve never set foot in a courtroom outside of a school trip aged 15. I work on deals, not cases!
B: Best and worst bits of the job? Biggest challenges?
R: I work with some great people! Almost all the lawyers I’ve ever worked with have been really clever, fun and interesting people. There’s definitely a certain drive and perfectionism we all have in common but my department is a great place to be and I met some of my absolute best friends through work.
I think the biggest challenge for me personally is the variability of hours. As I’m in a transactional area, I can have two weeks of past-midnight finishes followed by two weeks where I barely bill any time at all. When your bonuses and performance reviews put a lot of emphasis on whether you hit an hours target, slow weeks can be really demoralising and on the flip side busy weeks can mean cancelling really important plans. People tend to be very understanding but ultimately the client calls the shots, and if there’s work to be done and no one else can do it, you just have to put plans aside.
B: I’ve found that people really stress about training contracts (and I know the numbers are tough!) but personally I found being a trainee waaaaay tougher than the application process… any thoughts on coping with the journey to working in law, since it can be super long, super competitive, and of course isn’t always peachy when you’re on a very late deal…?
R: Personally, it’s easy for me to finish a tough week and just flop on the sofa for six hours straight on Saturday and binge watch a show because I’m tired. If you’re like me – my advice is to try not to do that too often, as I’ll then get to Sunday evening and feel like the weekend was wasted. I always try and spend some time with friends, do a workout class, book an event or, if I am sitting in front of the TV, I’ll work on one of my costume projects at the same time – it’s a creative outlet and making something gives me a sense of achievement, even if I did it while watching Netflix! It’s different for everyone but basically my advice is – if you don’t have much time off, really make sure that the time you get to yourself you’re putting towards something or someone you love, rather than just spinning wheels waiting for the next work email to come in or Monday to start.
B: How do you relax and wind down outside of work, and look after yourself generally? Anything that particularly helps you stay balanced?
R: I have a lot of hobbies and interests, and making time for those is really important to me. I love reading – history, true crime (I stayed up till two last night reading the Ted Bundy biography “The Stranger Beside Me” and barely slept a wink!), trashy regency romance novels, fantasy and sci-fi. I’m also listening to podcasts at the moment on my commute – my favourites include “You Must Remember This” (on the forgotten scandals of Hollywood), “My Favourite Murder” and “The Soundtrack Show” (which analyses film soundtracks). TV-wise I love Westworld, Game of Thrones and anything David Attenborough.
I’m also a huge Star Wars geek and in the last couple of years have got into cosplay, so I love researching and making props and costumes in my spare time and attending comic conventions, and I even take lessons in lightsaber fighting! It’s basically a fusion of kung fu and tai chi, except instead of wooden practice swords we use plastic ones that light up. Other sports and activities I love are Kobox (obviously!), skiing, diving, yoga, pilates, hiking and golf. Some weeks I’m busier than others, but for me balance is when I’m happily busy at work but with time for my interests and seeing friends and family.
B: Best and worst career advice you’ve ever been given?
R: Best: people don’t dwell nearly as much on the criticism they give you as you do. I think particularly in law, we’re such perfectionists that any negative feedback can really knock us. Take it, learn from it and try and move on – because the chances are that the person who said it hasn’t thought about it since they did!
Worst: “You can’t wear dangly earrings to work!!” My mum was an incredibly badass accountant-turned-banker in the 80’s when the City really WAS a man’s world, and any sign of femininity was seen as distracting or a weakness – this classic quote was from my first day at work when I was going to wear drop earrings. I don’t think she realised when I started my TC in 2015 how much the world, and corporate dress code in particular, has changed from “her day”. The fact our firm has casual Fridays continues to amaze her, as does the fact I never wear suits (stretchy jersey dresses for the win!)
B: Do you feel like workouts impact how productive you are at work?
R: 100%. I always try to work out in the mornings. It wakes you up, it gets your metabolism going, it clears your head, and ultimately I think it’s great to start the day with a bit of me-time – whether it’s yoga, running or, in my case, punching the hell out of something heavy to some really loud music.
B: If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be and why?
I honestly don’t know! I always have loved writing and secretly wanted to be a novelist, but I realised early on I wasn’t suited temperament-wise to such a solitary and unpredictable job. I also occasionally daydream of being a guide at a safari camp! Spending all day in the bush and then the evening round the fire with a glass of Amarula listening to the sounds of the wild and chatting to guests from all over the world sounds pretty fun to me. Having said that, I’d probably make it about three weeks without internet access before hotfooting it back to London.
B: Any role models career-wise (whether in law or not)?
R: My mum! She was the first in her family to go to university and then trained as an accountant as one of five women in a class of over 100. She then went into banking and made way more money than my dad for the first 10-15 years of their marriage (which was very unusual then). She ended up giving up work completely to look after me and my sister about the time I started school, but my parents were married for 10 years before they had kids, so she fit in a pretty incredible career before deciding to make that change. People are always shocked to find out my parents’ house is in her name! She’s incredibly driven and hard-working and is an example I try (and fail, a lot of the time!) to live up to.
B: Fave restaurant in City – any great places to take clients you’d recommend people?
R: I go to the Ned a lot and really like their restaurants, but if I’m not eating there I’ll usually head back towards Chelsea to have dinner. Mossimann’s, which is a dining club set in a gorgeous converted church in Belgravia, is the ultimate favourite – unfortunately I can’t go without my dad, as he’s the member, but I always beg to go there on my birthday! I love Rabbit, on the King’s Road, which does incredible seasonal British food tapas-style, and nearly died of happiness when they opened a Sticks ‘n’ Sushi less than two minutes walk from me!
B: And finally, what does ‘success’ mean to you?
It’s kind of abstract but that little fist-pump moment you get when you’ve absolutely nailed something. Whether it’s at work or not, the aim for me is for life to have more fist-pump moments than “d’oh” or “loo cry” moments.
Fave KOBOX combo – I know you go a lot 😉
Uppercuts. When I hit the bag hard enough that it jumps up, it makes me feel like Captain Marvel.
Pancakes or full english?
Full English for sure, I’m a savoury girl!
Burpee or bear crawl?
Oh Christ. Is Miranda reading this? Bear crawl! Definitely bear crawl!
Nature or nurture?
You can’t ask a former anthropology student that question, she’ll spend three weeks agonizing and then give you a 12-page essay that doesn’t even answer it! Like any true-crime aficionado, I’d probably say mostly nurture. But as a cat owner, nature certainly can’t be discounted.
Martini or cosmopolitan?
Martini – I like a citrusy, dry one with a grapefruit twist. But I’d choose a good margarita over either!
Talent or hustle?
Fave latin phrase from law-school?
In vino veritas – definitely learned during law school, although not actually during lectures…
Chocolate or cheese?
Louboutin or Jimmy Choo?
Louboutin, as long as I’m not walking far.
Fave legal drama?
Does Judge Judy count?! Funnily enough for a lawyer I’ve never watched Suits or The Good Wife or anything like that. But my mum always has Judge Judy on somewhere in our house so I have a soft spot for her.
You have to hug, marry and water-balloon 3 kobox instructors – which ones do you choose?!
Marry Miranda, obviously. Hug Joe or Jesse. Water-balloon Jacob (This is 100% revenge and I reserve the right to revise this when he’s back on the timetable permanently!)
It’s your last EVER meal of your life. What do you go for?
Christmas lunch followed by my mum’s EXTREMELY boozy raspberry trifle! With wine. Lots of wine.
Hope that was a useful insight into lawyer life – Bekky is definitely the coolest lawyer I know. Catch her at KOBOX in City most weekdays 😉
I have LOVED working on the Inspire Interview Series this year (catch up with any you missed here!) and getting to chat to so many amazing people about the cool stuff they’ve done with their lives. To round off 2018, I wanted to share with you a really special one.
Last year I was quite stressed out and disillusioned and needed a break and some inspiration, so I disappeared off to Paris for a weekend as it’s my favourite city in the world. Outside the bookshop (my spiritual home!) Shakespeare and Company, I discovered a book on a bench that had been left as part of a BookFairy Drop (where people leave books all around major cities and towns for others to discover)… and I was hooked. That was how I first connected with Michelle – through her gorgeous, haunting novel The Four Women (available here), and its characters, and I suppose above all – Paris.
Michelle Keill is a beautiful writer and novelist, and has kindly taken the time to answer a few of my Inspire Interview questions… so here’s hoping this kickstarts your New Year with a little creativity.
Writers are some of my favourite people because I’m fascinated by what they create, I get so excited when I get to talk to them – so without further ado, let’s chat to Michelle about her awesome work!
B: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
M: I’m not sure it was something I wanted to ‘be’, but it’s something I’ve always done. One of my earliest memories is of sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house writing stories with a crayon (in those days I also illustrated – badly, but more competently than I would do now).
B: What is the best thing, and what is the most difficult thing about being a writer?
M: The best thing, apart from the excuse to drink tea to excess and buy lots of pretty notebooks, is the opportunity to take myself out of reality and create a new one. Also, the potential to provide an escape for people: hearing from readers who’ve connected with the book is wonderful. As for the most difficult thing, any form of creative expression makes you vulnerable, and that feeling is hard to get used to. I find writing the first draft is the easiest part of the process – from there it gets harder, with all the rewriting and editing.
B: Can you give a little teaser about your novel The Four Women for anyone who hasn’t read it?
M: The book is about a young woman living in Paris whose world is drastically transformed by four women who enter her life, seemingly from nowhere, and introduce her to a reclusive and enigmatic tutor whom, they promise, can teach her French. On meeting him, she discovers that although he is indeed as brilliant as they described, he may not have the best of intentions. It’s a love story, but a dark one, and explores the theme of how much of our lives is predetermined, and what is simply chance. If I could give my characters one piece of advice it would be to be careful what you wish for, and to follow your instincts and stay true to yourself. Advice I try to keep in mind myself, actually.
B: What are you currently working on at the moment?
M: A collection of short stories, which should be published in 2019. I also have a romantic comedy and another Paris novel in the works.
B: Any tips for aspiring writers?
M: Write what enthrals and engages you, rather than what is popular or selling well at the moment (unless that is what enthrals and engages you!). You’re in charge of what you put on the page, so be sure it’s a genre or story that you feel passionate about. And read a lot. But, mostly, just write.
B: Can you describe a writing day in the life of Michelle Keill?
M: Despite not being a morning person, my best time to write is first thing, so I try to make an early start. Then I’ll keep going until about two in the afternoon, which is usually when I feel my creative energy fading. I might push on into the evening if I’m working on a key scene or if I’m really in flow, but I find my mind is clearer earlier in the day. I need to be free of distractions (i.e. no phone), but I need music on when I write, otherwise it’s not happening.
B: What has been the most challenging part of getting to where you are today?
M: I developed a serious illness in 2014, which struck without warning and came close to getting the better of me. I ended up having emergency surgery to save my lung, which was frightening. From there it was a long road back to health. I wrote ‘The Four Women’ as I was recovering: while my body was restoring itself, my creativity was resetting too. I look back and I’m amazed that something good came from such a harrowing experience.
B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?
M: Happiness for me can be as simple as spending a rainy day indoors lying on the sofa with a book and a cuppa. Same for success: if one person reads my book and enjoys it, then I consider that a win.
B: Best life advice you’ve ever been given?
M: Treat other people as you’d want to be treated yourself. And, from my mum, always make sure you have a decent mascara.
B: Best career advice you’ve ever been given?
M: Treat everyone you encounter at work, no matter what their role, with equal courtesy. The person at the bottom today may be at the top tomorrow. I think that came from my mum too.
B: Do you have a role model or mentor you look to for career inspiration?
M: My friends inspire me with their kindness, loyalty, and courage. Also, if I’m in a tricky situation, I often think, ‘What would Michelle Obama do?’ That always gets me on the right track.
B: What does ‘balance’ mean to you?
M: It means leaving a bit of energy in the tank and not pushing too hard (I’m still learning how to do this!). It means pausing and not always rushing to the finish line. Sometimes you have to slow down in order to speed up.
B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?
M: To make a positive contribution to the world.
B: What inspires you to write?
M: People, faces, and places. Or sometimes just a line in a song.
B: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be in another life?
M: Perhaps a doctor, if I could make the grade.
B: If you had to spend the rest of your life with one fictional character, who would it be?
M: Ross from ‘Friends’. He’s intelligent, sensitive, musical (!), and enjoys lounging around on sofas drinking hot beverages.
B: How do you take care of yourself and make sure you get the right ‘work life balance’, if there is such a thing?
M: Following my illness, I’ve learned to listen to my body (not quite sure I’ve mastered it yet). If you’re working too hard, or not getting enough sleep or eating properly, your body will usually drop a few subtle hints to let you know. I make sure I pay attention to those early warning signs, and try to take it a bit easier when I feel I need to.
Physical books or ebooks?
Physical, definitely. I love to see rows of bulging bookshelves.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Forests or beaches?
Forests. Bonus points if there are squirrels.
Walking or running?
Paris, Washington D.C., and my bed.
Dancing or yoga?
Nature or nurture?
Talent or hustle?
Chocolate or cheese?
Cheese. I’m all about the cheese.
Fave self-care ritual?
A hot bath, a book, and a cup of Earl Grey.
A good book or Netflix?
A good book, but I can’t pretend I could function without Netflix.
Not a quote as such, but JFK’s ‘we choose to go the moon’ speech always gives me a boost when I’m feeling overwhelmed, incapable, or my courage is failing me.
Top 3 books?
Hard to choose just three, but …
1. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
2. Misery by Stephen King
3. Tampa by Alyssa Nutting
Tea or coffee?
Tea, all day long. With plenty of milk.
Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!)
Frank-N-Furter, Oprah Winfrey, Juliette Binoche, Romesh Ranganathan, Don Lemon, Charlie Brooker, Stephen Colbert, and Freddie Mercury (I’d have to invite my mum too if Freddie was there).
If you had a ‘death row dinner’ – a last meal that could be anything you want, favourites, whatever… what would it be?
Pizza, followed by homemade apple crumble (custard mandatory). All followed, of course, by a large cup of tea.
Thanks so much for sharing your insights Michelle, I am so excited to read more of your work as I still get shivers thinking about The Four Women!
Everyone gets stressed and anxious, some more than others, but pretty much everyone can relate in some way! It’s become such a ‘thing’ (people talk about being busy and stressed and anxious 24/7 these days!) that we’re all looking for easy ways to de-stress all the time. While there aren’t any magic solutions, there are some effective tried-and-tested techniques, all of which help me manage my mood and hopefully will help you manage yours too!
Zen-up your life & feel better for Fall
Wake up early for a workout. This literally kickstarts your day in the best possible way, releases a rush of endorphins, boosts mood and creativity and is great for physical and mental health.
Snooze & hydrate
Make sure you’re getting 7 hours sleep a night, minimum.
Drink water! 80% of the human body is made up of water so it is ESSENTIAL!
Break free from the desk trap
Get away from your desk at any opportunity you can – easier said than done most days, but even a 20 minute walk at lunch, extra trips to the loo or to grab a coffee… movement and a change of scene always helps!
Get ruthless with social media – detox those screens!
Minimise social media usage if it’s making you compare yourself with others. De-toxify your insta and facebook by unfollowing and unfriending anyone who is making you feel bad – it’s not selfish to prioritise your sanity! An instagram cull can be so mentally cleansing if people’s content is irritating, making you envious or feel inadequate, or just isn’t what you want to see! It’s YOUR FEED. You decide.
Cut the caffeine (sorry!)
Reduce caffeine as much as possible – caffeine will amp up your stress levels and elevate your heart rate, and try to stop drinking it after lunch or it will still be in your system when you’re trying to go to sleep – true story!
Rewire your brain & delete ‘perfectionist’ from your vocabulary – rest is valuable!
Sometimes it’s okay to be good enough and not always work the overtime or volunteer for an extra project. Remember that, and rest up. You’re no good to anyone burned out!
Not just for New-Ageys… the science supports yoga and meditation
Yoga and meditation are amazing ways to promote what scientific studies have termed the ‘relaxation response’ – an alteration of your chemical state that is good for body and mind! They also help build resilience and flexibility, both mental and physical.
Fresh air ‘n’ breeeeeathe
Go outside – even just for 2 minutes – if you feel overwhelmed. It can totally shift your perspective, break up the day and give you a second to collect yourself.
Just. Say. NO.
Learn to say no – if you don’t want to go to that social thing, just get out of it and look after yourself. FOMO is so 90s. There’s no need for it!
Ditch public opinion & love yourself
Work on getting comfortable in your skin and not stressing about what other people think about you – whether you do this with yoga, meditation, journalling, sport, art, therapy, or all or none of these – honestly, it’s LIFE CHANGING. At 27 I had some mega realisations about living MY LIFE and liberating myself from being concerned with other peoples’ views of me… and it is honestly insane once you get there in the BEST POSSIBLE WAY. Obviously we’re all human and so relapse sometimes, but overall… I promise, you’ll feel amazing.
Re-prioritise… the good stuff
Recognise that work isn’t everything. Once you prioritise your relationships and your loves (be it a boyfriend, boxing, or family) you’ll feel so much more content with life. No-one dies wishing they’d spent more time at the office, however driven.
Nostrils, nostrils, nostrils (pranayama baby!)
Pranayama breathing, aka alternate nostril breathing. Sounds a bit mad, but I love this stuff… try it! It works. Go on. Give it a google.
Cultivate curiosity in new things, be it exploring, or learning a new language. Being stimulated in non-worky non-burnouty ways is so great for stress busting and feeling like you’ve achieved something, and re-invigorating your inspiration levels.
So, there you have it, my favourite ways to stay zen while spinning plates (or try to!) No-one is perfect and no-one can be chill all the time, but the nearer I get to 30 the more I realise what matters to me, and feeling happy and mentally and emotionally healthy is more of a priority than ever – I no longer have the obsession with beating myself up about things and stressing to the max… so I hope this helps you get happier too 😉
Anytime I see posts and articles about this I find it SO INTERESTING because I feel like we all get insecure sometimes and want to be a little more confident.
I’m a super shy person. Always have been. But I am less painfully shy than I used to be, to the point where now often people don’t believe I’m shy (maybe they think I’m awkward instead hahaha…!)
Confidence is this weird thing, right? You see people who literally are just so free and don’t give AF and are able to share their ideas, boss something in the gym without embarassment or speak up at work… I’ve often wished I could buy it in a bottle (champagne doesn’t count if you wanna keep your job guys!)
In my first job at Vouchercodes.co.uk, a lot of ‘pitching’ was involved – and I had to deliver the pitches myself. I was 21, super shy, not at all confident, I felt inadequate and ridiculous, and could barely speak in internal meetings, let alone with clients! We also had to present in company-wide meetings weekly, and it nearly gave me a heart attack.
I’ve always hated public speaking. I’d shake – as in PHYSICALLY SHAKE. I’d feel sick. I’d cry on the phone to my dad every morning.
But you know what? Being forced to do it again and again means that 1) I know if forced, I can… I even gave a speech at a wedding a couple of years ago! and 2) where speaking in a meeting of 3-10 people used to terrify me, now I know how to do it.
Practice, basically. I’d practice my pitches to my boyfriend, on the phone to my dad, I’d set up meetings with my boss to practice with her, I’d listen to her and make notes on how she did it… and then the worst bit was just making myself do it.
To help, I qualified to teach fitness so I had to stand up in front of a class so I could learn to do it somewhere I enjoyed. And it really, really helped. But you have to decide to put the work in.
All of that ground work is the only reason I could go to an interview at a magic circle law firm and get a job as a lawyer, because if I’d gone in post-graduation at 21, I’d have fallen to literal bits and been a nervous wreck.
I mean, I’m still an introvert, I like to recharge solo as much as possible rather than socialise, and that’s totally okay! I can still be awkward and weird hahaha… but I got over that crippling shyness and if I managed to, anyone else can too.
So here are my tips! And yes, ultimately it really is a case of fake it (or try!) until you make it!
1. Stop hiding behind the ‘it’s just my personality, I’m shy’
This is tough love, I know. I used to have panic attacks about doing public speaking, and I’ll never love it. BUT if you repeatedly practice exposing yourself to uncomfortable situations, you WILL adapt. Be gentle with yourself, do it gradually, you don’t have to be too mean to yourself. But the big key is to stop making excuses and decide to make a change. The way to start is to jump in and practice whatever it is that makes you uncomfortable.
Set small goals initially. Baby steps. Then as you get into your stride, you can take the leaps and bounds.
Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.
2. Physical strength builds mental strength
Did you see this one coming? 😉 Fitness is amazing for releasing feel-good hormones (endorphin pump is REAL y’all) but it also shows you the power of practice – little by little you increase strength and/or cardio fitness and it shows you change IS possible, which should give you the confidence to keep trying new things!
I did a Kayla Itsines leg workout the day of my training contract interview and it literally saved me hahaha!
3. Re-train your brain: the long bit!
How much time do you spend worrying about what other people think about you? I read an amazing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k and it suggested you have a think about the important things in your life that you DO and are WILLING to give a fuck about. Anything not on that list? It’s not within your fuck budget. Let that shit gooooooo!
How your life feelsto you is more important than how it looksto other people
Trust your own choices and stop talking to yourself in a negative way in your head. Try just repeating (silently or aloud!) ‘I CAN do this’ or something similar. It sounds super American and cheesy but when your habit is to tell yourself you CAN do something instead of saying you CAN’T, it does make a massive shift in your mindset.
Too scared to try something in the gym? Feel stupid, watched, embarassed? Re-train your thought process to be like SO WHAT? What’s the worst that could happen? They’d laugh at you? (I guarantee the other people there won’t, they’re too busy doing their own workouts, but even if they did…) Worse things happen at sea, guys.
The ego likes to try and protect us from laughter or scorn from others, but I think as a result it goes into overdrive and makes us think 99% of the time people are judging us when actually they don’t really care or even notice what we’re doing! Your opinion and that of those you love (and maybe the person who pays you!) is the only one that counts. Let everything else go. Even if the worst case scenario comes true and you’re super embarassed – so what? Once you start approaching things this way, and not minding looking silly, you’ll 100% feel liberated.
I used to experiment with my hair tonnes as a kid, but my dad’s side of the family always made comments about it, and gradually I think I stopped wanting to experiment. I started to think I had to have long hair to prove I was a girl (?! wtf ?! seriously ?!) as comments would often be about short hair being ‘boyish’. As my EDs got stronger and my confidence got lower, I felt like I was way too ugly for short hair and needed long hair to distract from it. How crazy is that?!
So, recently, (and also once a year and a half ago!) I chopped all my hair off again from my boobs to my collarbone, and it’s super liberating… and I now don’t care what anyone else things, apart from me and my boyfriend basically!
Basically, work, fitness, gym, wherever… there’s a bit of work to be done on realising that you just need to go with your gut. And if it all goes wrong and you look silly… you’re not dying, you’re still alive and have soooo many good things going on… so focus on that ❤
Admittedly some of it comes with age too. The nearer I get to 30, the better able I am to shake off anyone who bugs me and stick to my fuck budget 😉
Whether you hate the idea of meditation as woo woo, you’re a hippy spiritual moon-child or [insert other extreme here], meditation has been proven by various reputable scientific studies to have a positive effect on the brain due to its promotion of the ‘relaxation response’, a physiological change in the body as a result of the ‘relaxed’ state.
So. For the purposes of confidence, meditation’s mention here is twofold:
it teaches you increased focus, which makes you better able to let go of nagging, negative thoughts like ‘I can’t do this, I’m too scared, I’m too shy, I’m too anxious, why is everyone else more confident/smarter/prettier/cleverer than me…’ and breathe, and master your emotions.
it connects you better with yourself and your thought patterns, and by being more present with yourself, you eventually come to realise that you’re not your thoughts… you’re the observer of your thoughts. So you can actually create change and not let thoughts control you, but also it should increase your ability to spend time with yourself, feel good within yourself and actually (god forbid if you’re British) LIKE YOURSELF. Like, what is this madness?!
Sometimes our insta feeds get filled with post-workout selfies and when you’re having a day or a week where you reeeeeally don’t feel like working out, it can actually be really off-putting.
Everyone has, at some point or another, hit a bump where they just don’t feel like working out. It’s completely normal! I LOVE training but I still have this happen to me sometimes. But over time I’ve gotten used to it, and figured out some easy ways to slide back into the zone. So – what are the easiest ways to pick yourself back up?
This is a double edged sword. Scrolling for motivation can be helpful, but it can also make you feel rubbish. I recommend, first and foremost, an ‘unfollow’ spree – stop following ANY accounts that annoy you, make you feel not good enough or make you compare yourself with them. It’s not a comment on their content! It’s just protecting yourself. Similarly, start following accounts you do find helpful and inspiring.
This is an obvious one, but super useful. Kobox, Core Collective, Psycle, F45, whatever your jam – buy some credits and book some classes, and you won’t want to waste the money!
Make sure you’re doing workouts you love
If you hate running, for example, or weightlifting (or if you used to like it but you’re now over it) – change it up! Don’t do it anymore, do something else.
Ignore what’s ‘optimal’ because if obsessing about that is making you not want to train, then in trying to optimise your workouts you’re ironically stopping yourself from training… not the desired outcome!
Love netball? Join a team! Curious about #bbg? Download Kayla’s app! Always wanted to try boxing / capoeria / modern dance / athletics / volleyball / trail running…? Sign up to a class or a team or club.
Set some goals that make you want to progress
For example, I REALLY want to improve my pushups and be able to do 20 effortlessly, super quick. So that motivates me to train upper body, even on days I don’t feel like it. Maybe your goal is to run 5k, 10k, or a half marathon… maybe it’s to do a pull up, maybe it’s to increase the height of your box jump, or learn a new style of dance… whatever you think sounds like something you want to achieve, set the goal and then work towards it.
Be honest: are you making moves or excuses?
Yes, rest and recovery is important, but don’t fall into the trap of using it as an ‘excuse.’
You do need 2-3 rest days a week (ideally active rest, so still lots of walking, and maybe gentle movement like yoga or swimming) but stop using this to disguise the fact you can’t be bothered. It’s FINE to have a day where you’re like nah, today’s not the day, but own the decision. I like to schedule my rest days at the beginning of the week so they’re mindful. Ultimately it’s about being honest with yourself and in tune with how you feel!
Schedule workouts like you would meetings
This speaks for itself, right? By scheduling workouts you don’t really need to exert much willpower to go. They’re already in your diary.
Remember your why
Remember all the reasons we work out in the first place! It’s AMAZING for reducing stress, keeping us fit and healthy as we age, it has important cardiovascualr and longevity benefits, so keep in mind that it’s for your mental and physical health! Try to imagine the endorphin buzz you feel after a workout, and mentally re-create that feeling. Focus on those process based goals we talked about above – being able to do push ups or pull ups or whatever! And lastly, it’s okay to think about your aesthetic goals as long as it’s from a healthy, positive place, not a guilt-ridden one! Exercise isn’t a punishment!
Eat well for energy
Eating healthily, with a balanced plate of carbs, protein and healthy fats, plus ensuring you’re eating a rainbow of fruit and veggies (the easiest way to get in all those good vitamins and minerals – as you all know I’m all about the micronutrients and phytochemicals!) is the best way to fuel both your body AND mind. Carbs are essential for seratonin production which is a key hormone in your moods and staying happy! If you’re down, blue, grumpy and hangry and nutrient-deprived you’re less likely to train. Look after your body on the inside too and you’ll be primed for a productive sweat session! I also find that when my nutrition is good, I feel more motivated to take care of myself in other ways too like working out, and I feel so much happier and more energised!
A spoonful of caffeine helps the workout go down…!
Be careful with this! Make sure you always have a glass of water with your caffeine as caffeine is dehydrating. But several studies have shown caffeine can help boost your workout – my understanding is it lowers your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are, enabling you to go harder or longer! There’s a reason preworkout is sold to bodybuilders. Personally, I now steer clear of preworkout as I worry about all the other crap in it, but I grab either an espresso, or a black coffee, or even matcha. This especially helps me as I like to train fasted as my body struggles to exercise after food, so I love having a bit of a supercharge to my session!
Playlists are key
Make sure you’re not bored of your workout playlist, and I always like to choose ‘pump’ tracks – tracks that get me excited and want to make me get moving. This can be anything from a super motivating soundtrack to the Spice Girls! Whatever floats your boat. Studies also show that listening to music while training can also lower your perceived rate of exertion, so you don’t feel like you’re working as hard as you are. Go figure!
I hope some of these help get you a bit more motivated to train… you’re not alone if you’re in a bit of a rut and not feeling it, but the important thing is just to brush yourself off, stop beating yourself up and get moving again and you’ll soon feel AMAZING. ❤
I don’t know about you, but I’m an obsessive reader. This applies to fiction for fun, but also non-fiction, articles, blogs…
If I want to learn about something, I trawl through EVERYTHING I can find on the topic. It’s a little bit weird and obsessive, actually…!
And this can be a really useful (if nerdy) habit, especially if you want to learn how to do or achieve something.
I think education and research is so important and it pays to be well informed! But if, for example, your wellness goals are as follows:
Get healthier by exercising 3 times a week and improving my body composition
Meditate or do yoga or something for stress relief.
They’re great goals to have! Doing some reading about nutrition is going to be key, and if you’re new to exercise, you’ll want ideas for what to do, how to train, how to do it safely… and if you want to reduce your stress levels but don’t know how, have always thought meditation and yoga were a bit woo woo until recently til they became in vogue, you’ll want to do some reading around that too… which type of meditation, how do I do it, how do I know if it’s helping, does it really work, where is my nearest yoga class…?
I’m not for a second advocating skipping your due diligence! But there does come a point where people fall into blackholes of reading about their goals instead of getting up off the sofa and doing it!
It’s almost like we think by READING about the best foods to eat, or the BEST ab exercises, that will give us the results.
Sadly, it won’t.
So as I say – be informed, please do! – but know when to stop.
Staring at articles about celebrity diets and training programmes and how to optimise your training and best butt exercises will not make your dream health (and bonus improved body!) goals any better.
Reading about relaxation, fancy breathing and meditation techniques, or fun buzzfeed things on ’10 things you’ll know if you’re a yogi…’ will not make you less stressed.
You need to do the work darlings.
I have fallen into this trap SO MANY TIMES! I spent money on more nutrition programmes and coaches, read EVERYTHING, stalked celebrity height and body weight stats and how they achieved their results, googled everything to do with nutrition and fitness… It wasn’t until I’d fully healed my eating disorders, seen a Harley Street nutritionist, spent some time in therapy and done a whole lot of soul-searching that I stopped obsessing and started focusing on what I was doing.
Stop worrying about the pros, about what is ‘optimal’. Chances are, you’re not an Olympic athlete.
Regular physical activity, and healthy balanced nutrition will get you where you need to be if your goal is fat loss, for example.
People read about bro splits vs full body days vs intermittent fasting… basically, it’s about finding what works for you, and even IF a study says something else is ‘optimal’ if it doesn’t suit you, you won’t stick at it, so it’s not really optimal for you is it?
I hope this makes sense – I just see so many people get either overwhelmed with information, or get sucked into this idea of perfection by reading everything under the sun rather than making small, sustainable changes.
PS. if your goals are fitness and health based, these are the essentials on this site to browse, and from there just get going!
I’m so grateful for some of the interviews I’ve been able to do as part of this Inspire Interview Series – it’s mind-blowing to see the range of different but reeeeeally cooool shizz people can do when they put their minds to it! If you missed any of the previous installments, they’re all collated here on my careers page, so go and check them out!
Today, though, we have an incredibly special Q&A with a phenomenal woman tackling, among other things, proving publishers wrong, writing books, kicking cancer’s ass – in other words, grit and life wisdom from a gorgeous girlboss warrior.
I think ‘career inspo’ style pieces can end up being very glib, trite, very ‘yeah! postivity woo, follow your dreams!’ and I wanted to make sure I’m sharing real stories, real experiences with breadth and depth and struggle as well as glossy corporate fairytale stories, so today I think this much deeper, harder, more real interview than any featured so far in this series is the most important – it’s definitely affected me the most of the pieces so far, and I hope you all find what you need from it too ❤
Alice May Purkiss (author of Life, Lemons & Melons, out later this year)
While already battling depression, Alice was diagnosed with cancer. Ultimately, she kicked its ass and survived it, and continues to document her journey on social media (@Alicemaypurkiss) and she has written some incredible pieces on her experience and given a range of speeches and workshops. She is now a freelance writer, self-published author, trustee for Cancer Charity CoppaFeel and much, much more.
Upon being told by publishers that her social media following wasn’t big enough to publish her memoir about her experience of cancer, depression, and everything in between, Life, Lemons and Melons, Alice successfully crowdfunded the project, sourced illustrators and singlehandedly proved them wrong (click here to pre-order now!) She now works as a freelance writer and has written for Stylist, Metro, Red Online to name a few.
I wanted to share as much as possible of the insights from this awesome human with you, both life lessons, career and writing, because I think we all struggle with figuring out what we’re doing, where we’re going, career stuff… but this is a girl who did it / is doing it while simultaneously frying much, MUCH bigger fish… so without further ado, let’s go over to Alice.
The lesson is this: depression or no depression, PTSD or no PTSD, cancer or no cancer, any emotions you are feeling are valid. You’re feeling them for a reason. We’re all guilty of shutting ourselves down when we’re experiencing emotions that feel more intense than we’re used to. But they are part of the human experience. They are part of what it is that makes us a human. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Without loss we cannot know gratitude. I know it sounds trite. I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, a bit wishy washy and probably a bit like I’ve read too many books on feelings but we are consistently told to keep our emotions in check because we are scared of how our feelings will be perceived. But if your emotions are on extra loud, for whatever reason, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to get rid of them. Recognise them. Learn from them. – Alice May Purkiss, Life, Lemons & Melons
B: Please could you give a little intro of your journey of the last few years for anyone who doesn’t know you from social media?
A: Writer. Avid eater of food. Northerner on loan to London. Feminist. Had a run in with breast cancer. Trustee for @coppafeelpeople.
B: You’ve been through an incredibly difficult ordeal and what’s been amazing about following your journey is how you’ve managed to transform some of that into a force for good, with your advocating for women checking their breasts for lumps [#CheckYourChebs], writing your book Life, Lemons and Melons, speaking at various events and sharing your experiences… do you have any advice for people struggling with similar (or different but difficult) situations?
A: Life is tough. We are consistently thrown curve balls that keep us on our toes and these can have long lasting and far reaching effects. But there is nearly always some good to be found in the difficult situations, it’s just about switching your view up so you can see it. And it’s important to remember that while every day might not be good, better days will come. Like the sunrise and the sunset, time is constantly moving and the world is always changing, so you won’t feel like you do now forever.
B: This seems like a stupid question as it must change so much, but how has your journey with breast cancer and everything you have to deal with as a consequence changed you and your perspective on life, looking after yourself, and work?
A: I get asked a lot if being diagnosed with breast cancer has changed me – and the honest answer is I really don’t know. Some days I feel like the same person I was before I got sick, other times I feel like a completely different human. I’m a bit of a contradiction really because sometimes it makes me more cautions and other times it makes me more adventurous. I think the best way to describe it is I’m a bit like a twin of myself – with the same basic DNA (minus the cancery cells) but with tweaks to my personality and my outlook. I’ve always been “work to live” rather than “live to work” and this is SO MUCH WORSE now, which is a blessing in many ways but also means I need to give myself a kick up the arse a lot more than I used to. And in terms of looking after myself, this has become completely crucial to me. My body has been battered and bruised and my brain has taken it’s fair share of a battering too – so things like yoga and meditation have taken a bigger priority in my life than ever before.
B: Can you talk a little bit about your process and experience of writing your book Life, Lemons and Melons?
A: The process of writing Life, Lemons and melons has been a pretty long one. I started my “journey” towards publishing this book about 18 months ago, when I secured an agent and he began talking to publishers about my work. They felt that despite the fact that they loved my idea and my writing, I didn’t have a big enough social media following for them to take a punt on me. So I decided to stick it to the man and do it anyway. I launched a Kickstarter and raised £5000 in 30 days last October and since then I have been knee deep in the writing trenches, driven on by nought but my own perseverance and the 176 investors who chose to believe in me with their hard earned dollar. As the book combines a number of difficult topics, it’s taken me quite a lot of time to geth through the chapters, and it’s really important to me that I am looking after myself while writing, so I’ve taken my time and tried not to put too much pressure on myself to get it done. I also have to be in a very particular place mentally and emotionally to write it so I don’t make my way into a mental nosedive, so I have to be really careful.
B: You moved from a marketing role to going freelance and writing your book – any tips for people looking to do the same?
A: Take your time – don’t rush. The move doesn’t need to happen immediately. Start putting some feelers out for freelance work before you take the plunge and leave your job. And don’t be scared of the peaks and troughs that come with being a freelancer – there are many and they never get easier but where there are troughs there are always peaks.
B: Can you describe a (working/writing) day in the life of Alice Purkiss?
A: God I’m so bad at sticking to a particular schedule so it varies massively from day to day. I still struggle with fatigue so I don’t usually rush out of bed – even if I’m awake (which I usually am) I don’t get up til about 8.30 or 9, then I’ll get my breakfast, have a wash and start my day at 10am, unless there’s anything in particular that needs to be done first thing (usually dealing with social media clients or responding to emails). Then I usually work for a few hours on whatever projects I have on, whether social media management, writing pieces I have been commissioned for, doing the copywriting work that pays the bills or banging out some words for the book. I usually work til around 2 or 3pm. But this can all change if I have an event to go to, or a meeting to attend, or if I want to go for a swim, to yoga or to another exercise class.
B: What has been the most challenging part of going freelance and working for yourself?
A: Being kind to myself when things are difficult financially. Freelancing is so variable – some months I have lots of work coming in, others I don’t. That’s just the way it is for most freelancers but I have a tendency to tell myself I’m not doing enough, not trying hard enough, should be doing more etc etc. So working on treating myself better and learning to relish the downtime has been a big learning curve.
B: You’ve been very open about your struggles with depression before and during your breast cancer, and the importance of mental health which is so inspiring and I’m sure has helped so many people. What would you say to someone who is suffering and needs help or advice?
A: It’s such a hard question because everyone is so different but I think my number one piece of advice is that the sun will come out again. Better days are coming. You will know lightness again. Just hang in there. Kind of reminds me of this section I wrote in the book:
“There is one key thing I have learnt over the last three years. I think this lesson has partially occurred as a result off my extensive CBT and counselling but partly just as a result of living through a trauma and probably as I approach 30 and develop a bit of hindsight on the life that has gone before me. The lesson is this: depression or no depression, PTSD or no PTSD, cancer or no cancer, any emotions you are feeling are valid. You’re feeling them for a reason. We’re all guilty of shutting ourselves down when we’re experiencing emotions that feel more intense than we’re used to. But they are part of the human experience. They are part of what it is that makes us a human. Without sorrow we cannot know joy. Without loss we cannot know gratitude. I know it sounds trite. I know it sounds a bit airy fairy, a bit wishy washy and probably a bit like I’ve read too many books on feelings but we are consistently told to keep our emotions in check because we are scared of how our feelings will be perceived. But if your emotions are on extra loud, for whatever reason, sit with them for a while. Don’t try to get rid of them. Recognise them. Learn from them. Don’t beat yourself up for not reacting the “right” way to something. There is no “right” way. Remind yourself you’re doing the best you can. And if the intense emotions you’re feeling are horrible or scary, find someone to sit with them with you, someone to hold your hand and remind you that everything’s going to be ok. I think every emotion comes to teach us something. We just have to be open to learning.”
B: What does 1) ‘happiness’ and 2) ‘success’ mean to you?
A: 1) Living well and making the most of the life I’ve been given and sharing it with people I love
2) Managing to do the above!
B: What’s your life’s mission in a nutshell?
A: My life’s mission in a nutshell is to do my bit to help stamp out late detection of breast cancer by educating the masses on the signs and symptoms that you should be looking out for when you do your monthly check (that’s why I volunteer with CoppaFeel!). I want people who are struggling with their mental health to know that they are not alone – that they can talk when they are ready and things will get better. I want those people to know that the world is better with them in it. I want to tell stories and go on adventures, to laugh, to be happy and to be healthy for as long as possible
Swimming or running? SWIMMING. Every time.
Breakfast, lunch or dinner? Dinner (or tea as we call it in the North)
Forests or beaches? Beaches near forests?!
Nature or nuture? Nature
Talent or hustle? Talent
Chocolate or cheese? Chocolate
Fave self-care ritual? Yoga
A good book or netflix? Book
Fave quote: “Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Tea or coffee? Neither. I am a traitor to my Yorkshire kin.
Avocado toast:ridiculous or delicious?
Who would attend your dream dinner party (living or dead, fictional or real!) GOOD ONE. Erm. Margaret Atwood, Bryony Gordon, my Grandma, Zadie Smith, Jon Ronson and Adam Buxton.
The best meal in the world is… My husband’s mum’s roast ham Sunday dinner with all the trimmings. It’s honestly the best ham I’ve ever tasted. But I also bloody love seafood so anything fishy works for me.
If you have any questions or concerns, whether you want to donate or have worries about your own health… have a look at the CoppaFeel website and other relevant charities but please do not hesitate to book a boob check, and speak to a qualified health professional. Other resources include: